Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Friday, 29 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Feb 08, 04:28 PM

immigration.jpgWhat do the new rules mean? Are they irrelevant to the main concern of many British people - the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe? In fact just how many people are the new rules expected to exclude who were not previously? We have the figures.

Which way Russia?
They are now speaking of "Putinism" in Russia - and it is always a bit of a warning sign when a politician becomes an "-ism”. But what will this weekend's presidential elections mean for Russia's future? A former Kremlin adviser will discuss it with a leading Putin sceptic.

Labour's Spring in the Step?
We've sent Michael Crick off to the Labour spring Conference to see if the party regulars feel any optimism about their chances of winning the next election, after some dismal showings in the opinion polls. Don't forget to read Michael's blog.

Newsnight Review
Banksy's Rat with DrillAnd then on Review, Sarfraz Manzoor, Kerry Shale and Rachel Campbell-Johnston join Kirsty to discuss: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black in Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding; Hanif Kureishi's new novel Something To Tell You; drama White Girl and documentary Last Orders, both from BBC Two's White Season; and an exhibition of Works by Banksy at the Andipa Gallery, London. More information on all those on the Newsnight Review website.

Should Labour have declared Saatchi work as donation?

  • Michael Crick
  • 29 Feb 08, 03:20 PM

Saatchi and Saatchi's Not Flash, Just Gordon posterIt's a great mystery. You'll recall that last summer the Labour Party announced - with some glee - that they'd recruited the advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi to work on the next election campaign. It was heralded as a great coup for Gordon Brown at the time - Mrs Thatcher's favourite advertising agency was now working for Labour. And Saatchi and Saatchi worked frantically for their new political clients in late August, September and early October. The account manager Robert Senior and his colleagues came up with the clever slogan, "Not Flash, Just Gordon". And you can imagine the intense frustration and dismay amongst the Saatchi and Saatchi team in their offices in Charlotte Street when GB suddenly decided there wouldn't be an autumn election after all.

Continue reading "Should Labour have declared Saatchi work as donation?"

Prospects: Friday, 29 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 29 Feb 08, 10:08 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer - here's his early email to the team.

Hello All,

So do we get an extra day's pay for working an extra day this year? Welcome to February 29th.

Lots of stories that are interesting - on which can we make our mark?

harry203fri29.jpgShould we do Harry? What are the circumstances where we agree NOT to report something? Or now everyone else is talking about Harry should we impose our own ban on reporting him?

Russian election this weekend? What would you like to know - what is the interview that you want to hear?

Immigration points system has come in - can we throw ahead to White Season and do a bit of this tonight? But will today's new point system be the change that is necessary to reassure those that are upset at the "pace of change".

Michael Crick is at Labour Party spring conference - to hear Ken Livingstone speak and to gauge just how the party is now performing.

Any other ideas gratefully received. See you at 10.30

Simon Enright

Thursday, 28 February, 2008

  • Kirsty Wark
  • 28 Feb 08, 05:58 PM

plastic203bags.jpgWhere do you stand on the Plastic Bag Debate? M&S has announced that in their food department customers are going to be charged 5p per plastic bag in an effort to reduce consumer demand. A good move or a publicity stunt when there are many other ways M&S could be moving ahead towards their promise of being carbon neutral by 2012? There are other ways - The Irish Government introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002 and claims use has fallen by 90%. Even China has banned ultra thin bags and free bags will be banned from June of this year - as a result the country's leading plastic bag producers closed down. So is this just ‘greenwash’ or a good thing? We will also debate whether the environmental lobby is ruling our lives.

It has just been announced that Prince Harry has been fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan - and as luck would have it tonight we have a film from Alastair Leithead about the strategy in that country. Six years after the fall of the Taleban, President Karzai has control of just 30% of the country, US National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told a Senate committee. The Taleban hold 10%. So what are the US the British and Afghan governments getting right and wrong in Afghanistan? The British in Helmand province may think experience in Northern Ireland, and 1950s Malaya puts them at the forefront of counter insurgency, but the Americans running the south east now seem well ahead, as Alastair Leithead reports.

See you later, Kirsty

Hold on Mr Blair

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Feb 08, 04:54 PM

Sir Ian BlairThe Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair seems a bit miffed that neither the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, nor the Commons Privileges Committee referred the Derek Conway case to him for a possible criminal investigation. One former MP who is a barrister tells me there may be strong constitutional arguments why the police couldn't pursue this case.

Technically parliament itself is a court of law, and so Derek Conway has been tried and convicted by Parliament, and so if the police were to investigate Conway and he ended up in an ordinary criminal court, he would effectively be tried twice, and one court would be challenging the verdict of another. Article nine of the 1689 Bill of Rights - the article which establishes Parliamentary privilege - says: "That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament." So any outside court considering the Conway could therefore be deemed to be questioning what Parliament has already decided.

No doubt some constitutional anorak will tell me that my former MP friend has got it all wrong, and that this is all bonkers. But maybe not.

Getting rid of plastic shopping bags - is it a no-brainer?

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Feb 08, 12:13 PM

bags203.jpgThere's a growing war on plastic shopping bags. Marks and Spencer plans to charge customers 5p for them in an effort to reduce demand. The Irish government introduced a consumer plastic bag tax in 2002 and says use fell by more than 90%. Even China - not often regarded as a leading light on environmental issues - has banned ultra-thin bags and free bags will be banned from June this year. One of the country's leading plastic bag manufacturers has closed down as a result.

So isn't it now a no-brainer that the UK followed suit?

Jones the sneak?

  • Michael Crick
  • 28 Feb 08, 10:42 AM

Gordon Brown outside Number 10 Downing StreetI said some weeks ago that we'd be able to assess the importance and success of Gordon Brown's new chief adviser Stephen Carter, if he manages to bring in a few more high-powered people to beef up the Downing Street staff. The word for some weeks has been that Brown has been negotiating to appoint Clive Jones, the former head of ITV News and the Regions, to overhaul Number Ten's communications strategy.

All very amusing, for Clive Jones was once David Cameron's boss at Carlton Television, where the Tory leader worked as Director of Communications. Indeed Jones could soon be doing for Gordon Brown, what David Cameron did for him.

How satisfying for Brown to think that he employs his opponent's former boss. Indeed Jones could be just the man to advise all about David Cameron's strengths and weaknesses.

"And," one mischievous Labour MP has suggested to me, "if David Cameron ever had a drugs issue in those days, then Jones may know all about it".

I have now been told by a senior Downing Street source that the story is 'rubbish' and that Clive Jones is not joining Number Ten.

Prospects for Thursday, 28 February

  • Newsnight
  • 28 Feb 08, 10:25 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan - here is his early email to the production team.

Good morning everyone,

The programme is wide open today. Do come to the meeting prepared to debate what should be the lead and why. Stories around include GPs, plus the Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley seems to have made a fresh spending commitment. There's also bags and Jersey.

We have an Alistair Leithead film produced by Rebecca on US and UK counter-insurgency work in Afghanistan. Is it making any progress?

I've got an option on interviewing former head of the Bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Scheuer. He's got a new book out on foreign policy and terror. I'll explain more in the meeting. It could work off the back of the film.


Wednesday, 27 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Feb 08, 06:11 PM


beveridge203x100.jpgThe Welfare State was established in 1948 to tackle William Beveridge's "Giant Evils" of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. A key part of that reform was the abolition of the Poor Law and its replacement with a version of the Social Security and Benefits system we have today. But 60 years on, is the benefits system still fit for purpose? On the eve of the government's announcement of its own proposals on Welfare Reform we'll be talking to the Work and Pensions Secretary and asking key thinkers if it is time for a root-and-branch change?


As Russia prepares to elect a new president this weekend, there are signs it's reinstating its military might. In the last few months strategic nuclear bombers have been brought out of 15 years of hibernation and intercepted off the coast of Scotland. While they say these are simply exercises, few doubt that its growing presence in the skies has a political dimension. We have exclusive access inside one of Russia's strategic bomber bases.


We'll have the latest from Jersey on the police investigation into allegations of child abuse at Haut de la Garenne, and have some astonishing revelations about the Jersey authorities' attitude to previous cases of child sexual abuse.


The biggest earthquake in Britain for nearly 25 years was felt across large parts of Britain this morning. The epicentre measured 5.2 on the Richter scale near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire but people across Newcastle, Yorkshire, London, Cumbria, the Midlands, Norfolk and also parts of Wales all felt it. We'll take a look through the images from throughout the day.

Is it time to rethink Welfare?

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Feb 08, 01:51 PM

The Welfare State was created to tackle William Beveridge's "Giant Evils" of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

But 60 years on, is it still fit for purpose?

On the eve of a government announcement about plans to overhaul the benefits system, Newsnight asks is it time for root-and-branch change?

Let us know what you think?

Prospects for Wednesday, 27 February

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Feb 08, 11:08 AM

Today's programme producer is Carol Rubra - here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

There's no obvious lead today but I'm interested in looking at Welfare reform ahead of James Purnell's announcement tomorrow. Do we need a new Welfare State for the 21st Century? Have social attitudes to the benefits system changed as society has become less homogenous? Please come to the meeting with ideas for guests for a big discussion, treatments and angles.

Which other stories interest you?
Heathrow protesters on the roof of parliament, more chip and pin, EU expenses, DNA case, the Obama/ Clinton debate, pro referendum lobby of parliament.

We have a film from Rupert Wingfield Hayes from the Volga on Russia reviving its strategic nuclear bomber force.

Tuesday, 26 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Feb 08, 06:20 PM

Chip and Pin

chip203x152.jpgWhatever you buy in the shops, you probably pay with a chip and pin card, tonight Newsnight has exclusive evidence that they are vulnerable to fraudsters. The implications could be huge for millions of shoppers. We'll be asking what are the banks going to do about it?

Let us know if you think you have been a victim of chip and pin fraud.

Terror Trial

The missed opportunities in picking up the July 21 bombers can be disclosed today following the conviction of one of the most senior terrorist recruiters in Britain - a man who called himself "Osama bin London". Peter Marshall has the full story.

Jersey Claims

After the horrific findings in a Jersey children’s home last week, more accusations have been made on the island today of a "cover-up" in relation to separate child abuse allegations at a school in the 1990s. Are the authorities responsible for a conspiracy of silence over many years or are the claims without foundation? We have a report tonight from Jersey.

Nader Interview

From the US we have an interview with the independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader - why does he keep running for President and is he proud of his role in helping George W Bush to win the election of 2000?

Tuesday, 26 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Feb 08, 10:55 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here is his early email to the production team.

Good morning, some strong stories today,

Susan Watts has a very strong story on the vulnerability of Chip and Pin machines. The research has been carried out by Professor Ross Anderson's team, and illustrates how relatively easy it is to tap into a machine and create a cloned card. Could this explain the increasing number of "phantom withdrawals" form customers’ cards reported across the UK?

The anti-depression report plastered across today's papers is interesting - but will it feel very old by tonight? Do you have guest suggestions that could move the story on?

Jackie is in Jersey. Senator Syvret claims to have evidence that previous child abuse allegations on the island were covered up. We'll look at the evidence and see if it's worth pursuing.

The Turkish Government is to publish a new version of the Hadith - the collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad - taking out what are sometimes regarded as harsh and misogynistic messages. What will be the reaction across the Islamic world? Could this be the beginning of a "Reformation" in Islam (as some claim)? Who could we have on to discuss this?

There are also some interesting developments on the MPs’ expenses story at Westminster.

How should we cover these stories? What other suggestions do you have?


I forgot to mention, we have an interview with Ralph Nader too

Monday, 25 February, 2005

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Feb 08, 05:34 PM

Jeremy has spent the afternoon speaking to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz about his new book - The Three Trillion Dollar War. It is an attempt to put a price on how much was spent invading Iraq. He tries to put numerical values not only on the damage to the world's economy but also the personal cost to those who fought and the many who died in the war. The book is the latest in the Newsnight Book Club - read an extract and leave your thoughts here.

The former Jersey children's home Haute de la GarenneheBut we'll start the programme with the police investigation in Jersey which looks to be uncovering remains at the site which once was a children's home. Is there something about the way Jersey runs its government which allowed this to go unchecked? We'll debate.

There were cheers for the Speaker when he called "Order, Order" in the house today; that after a rough weekend of headlines calling for his resignation. But it does seem that his parliamentary colleagues are giving him their support. For now. Does that damage the reputation of the House? We'll speak to an interesting figure who in his time was also responsible for damaging parliament's reputation.

Finally we have a report from Chad - not somewhere we often take our cameras. Many refugees from Darfur are sheltering in the country but they are far from safe. The complicated local political situation leaves Chad's borders vulnerable and the French peace-keeping troops have split loyalties. It is a difficult but important film to watch.

The Three Trillion Dollar War by Stiglitz and Bilmes

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Feb 08, 03:32 PM

The Three Trillion Dollar WarThe Three Trillion Dollar War by Nobel award-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University is an attempt to put a price on how much was spent invading Iraq.

Stiglitz and Bilmes try to put numerical values not only on the damage to the world's economy but also on the more personal costs of the war. The book counts direct spending by the US and UK before going on to cost everything from lives lost and damage done in the Middle East to replacing military hardware and caring for veterans in the West.

The extract below is from the preface.

Continue reading "The Three Trillion Dollar War by Stiglitz and Bilmes"

Prospects - Monday, 25 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Feb 08, 10:27 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer.

Good Morning,

The former Jersey children's home Haute de la GarenneheWhat has gone on in Jersey? And is there culpability from the political system there? We're trying to scramble a team out there. Any other lines we should pursue?

Speaker Michael Martin's broken no Commons rules. His spokesman just resigned because he'd told the press an untruth. And it was not Michael Martin's fault. So what is going on and has Martin lost the confidence of MPs or not? (Watch David Grossman’s original report on this story.)

We have a film from Chad about the role of French troops in the developing crisis there as refugees flood across the border from Sudan and Darfur.

And we also have an interview with Professor Joseph Stiglitz about his latest book looking at the economics of the war in Iraq.

We possibly do need one more thing but what?

OFGEM's largest ever fine on a company?
The Fair-trade debate - sales are up but the Adam Smith Institute is characterising Fair Trade as unfair
Or should we debate who had the best dress at the Oscars?

Bring your answers to the morning meeting. OR post them below.


Friday, 22 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Feb 08, 05:33 PM

iraq_soldiers203x100.jpgDid British soldiers really execute up to 20 Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq, as was claimed in a press conference today? Lawyers published a dossier concerning the aftermath of a gun battle in 2004 known as "The Battle of Danny Boy" named after the checkpoint where it took place. But how reliable is the evidence, based on the accounts of Iraqi civilians who were blindfolded at the time?

Who is Barack Obama? He is now definitively the front runner for the Democratic nomination, although Hillary Clinton may make an Alamo-like last stand in Texas and Ohio in ten days. But if it really is Obama versus McCain in November, what kind of contest is that shaping up to be? And will the Republicans simply paint Obama as the most left wing Democratic candidate for 40 years? We'll hear live from a top Obama adviser, Senator Tom Daschle.

"All In The Mind"
Alastair Campbell has written a work of fiction - no not another Government dossier - but a novel about a psychiatrist "his patients and family, and the pressures they bring to bear upon each other”. So can Alastair become a successful man of letters? We interview him live on the programme.

Prospects for Friday, 22 February

  • Newsnight
  • 22 Feb 08, 10:28 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here is his early email to the production team.

Morning all.

Open to lots of suggestions today on stories, guests and treatments. Plenty of stories around but what should we make our own?

Should agency workers have the same pay and conditions as other workers? A Private Members Bill is expected to receive strong support from Labour MPs today despite the opposition of the Government and claims from the CBI that 250,000 jobs could go. Can we shine a light on to the world of agency workers? What are their conditions and what are the consequences?

Peter Marshall is working on a profile of Barack Obama, which guests would you like off the back?

Other stories we could do include allegations of torture by British troops in Iraq. Serbia and reports that the Turkish army has entered northern Iraq.

Please come with lots of ideas.


Thursday, 21 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Feb 08, 05:21 PM


miliban203x100.jpgThe Foreign Secretary has made an extraordinary apology to MPs over extraordinary rendition. Until now the government's always been adamant that British soil has never been used in the process of moving terrorist suspects around the globe, to or from countries where they could be subject to torture.
But today David Miliband admitted that, in actual fact, two such planes DID touch down on British territory a full six years ago - on the island of Diego Garcia. Why hadn't this come to light before now? Because the US government has only just informed the government about the flights, apparently, even though they are supposed to ask permission of the government before using British territory in such a way. Two parliamentary inquiries since 2002, then, have been misled by the government.
Kirsty is speaking to the legal adviser to the US State Department John Bellinger about this right now - and will be asking why details of these flights have taken six years to come to light. And we'll be asking where it leaves the “special relationship”.

Suffolk Murders

Steve Wright has been convicted of murdering five women in Ipswich at the end of 2006. What would motivate a man to commit such unspeakable crimes? Were they a tragic, isolated series of killings or do they speak to deeper issues in society?

MP WAS bugged

An investigation ordered by the Home Office has found that the Labour MP, Sadiq Khan, was bugged on two occasions when he met a terrorist suspect in prison. The Home Secretary said that senior police officers did not realise he was an MP and that correct procedures were followed. But how seriously can we take the results of the inquiry given that it took no evidence from the whistleblower who made the original allegations?

Euro millions

We've heard stories of MPs employing relatives to do next-to-nothing. But it seems we’ve got nothing on the European Parliament. The European Union's internal anti-fraud squad has confirmed it's investigating alleged abuses of MEPs' expenses totalling about £100m. David Grossman is working up a handy guide to Euro-expense wheezes.

And - in case you weren't watching last night - we're celebrating Jeremy's News Presenter of the Year Award from the Royal Television Society. Some of his best interviews from the past year are on the website.

Prospects - Thursday, 21 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 21 Feb 08, 10:17 AM

Liz Gibbons is the programme producer today - here is her early email to the team.


Lots of room for your ideas on the prog tonight…

Some early thoughts….

EU flagsMEPs expenses - we've done well on this story in the past. Can we move it on still further tonight?

British Gas profits - what's the best angle for us ? Competition or fuel poverty ?

Northern Rock - likely to have a rocky road through parliament today because of hiving off of we should watch.

There's a demo in Serbia later this afternoon.

And we might have a film from Chad. Or we might not.

Wednesday, 20 February, 2008

  • Emily Maitlis
  • 20 Feb 08, 05:14 PM

Arrivals at Luton airportA funny thing is happening, these days. The immigration debate is as hot as ever - but now no-one is talking about race. They're talking about speed of change - squeezed public resources and overcrowding. But the 'colour card' as such, is gone. Tonight, as the Home Secretary asks new immigrants to 'prove their worth', we ask whether it's just the language that's changed, whether the debate has become more 'grown up' or whether the two HAVE become decoupled. The immigration issue has often got political parties in trouble in the past - but right now, politicians know they cant afford to ignore it.

Spy Satellites? Calling Bruce Willis
Life, as Woody Allen once put it, often imitates art. And today the Pentagon's concerns appear to come straight out of the action movie Armageddon.
The US is standing by to shoot down a satellite which they say could cause great damage if it crashed to earth. They got rather upset when China tried something similar last year. Indeed those actions prompted fears of a space arms race. Except this time, they tell us, it's very different. All well and good. But the Russian's simply don't believe them and have branded it a cover for weapon testing.
Anyway, the testosterone is flying, as it were. We'll be gathering Russia and US watchers to tell us where this is heading.

When Germany recognised Croatian independence in 1991 it was explosive and led to the Balkan conflict. Today, it has formally recognized Kosovo's independence, but only after France, the US and Britain did so earlier in the week. The circumstances are different but there are historical resonances. So can war be avoided this time around?

Sovereign Wealth Funds
These massive state owned investment funds have nearly three trillion dollars to invest - slightly more than Britain's entire GDP. They can come to the rescue of troubled enterprises - and banks that need a bail out. But what do we actually know about these naturally secretive organizations - rising, as so many do, from the deserts of the Middle East? Stephanie Flanders is on the case – and you can read her analysis of the cash and controversy surrounding sovereign wealth funds here.

Prospects - Wednesday, 20 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 20 Feb 08, 10:21 AM

Today's programme producer is Carol Rubra - here is her early email to the team.

Good morning,

There are a few interesting stories around today but there's lots of space for other things, or a different lead? Please come with your own ideas.

Certificate of naturalisationImmigration and citizenship. We'll find out more about what the green paper is proposing this morning. The DNA disc which sat in a drawer for a year, reforms of incapacity benefit, reforms to rules for long term unemployed.

I'd like us to look at the spy satellite story - the US have said they will shoot down a spy satellite which will otherwise crash into earth sometime in the next 24 hours. China and Russia have complained. Is this the next step in the space arms race or a necessary act to protect the earth?

Our film today: Stephanie has a film about the secretive world of Sovereign Wealth Funds, massive state owned investment funds that have risen out of the oil economies and now have trillions of dollars to invest around the world.

And there is space for another story so please come with ideas on what we should do and how. Perhaps something light for the end of the programme?

Tuesday 19 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Feb 08, 06:10 PM

castro.jpgFidel Castro has finally stepped down as President of Cuba 49 years after the Cuban Revolution. Tonight we consider his legacy for Cuba, the Cold War and revolutionaries (and would-be revolutionaries) across the world. George Galloway and a leading Cuban American opponent of Castro will be discussing the president's legacy.

The Pakistan elections have delivered a significant blow to President Musharraf. The PPP, the party of the late Benazir Bhutto say they hope to form a coalition Government with another opposition party. So what happens next? Should Musharraf fear impeachment? Mark Urban reports from Pakistan.

There has been a powerful press conference this afternoon concerning the young people in and around Bridgend who have taken their lives in recent months. The police and parents of one of the teenagers strongly criticised media coverage of suicides and said that some of the reporting may even have encouraged some young people to kill themselves.
The police say they have found no evidence of suicide pacts or any other link between the deaths. Tonight, we ask, have the media helped to create a phenomenon they claim to simply have reported?

And, finally, we'll have Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero live in the studio. She's brilliant at improvisation and she'll play out on a piece based on a viewer's suggestion to our website.

Prospects for Tuesday, 19 February

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Feb 08, 10:17 AM

Today's programme producer is Dan Kelly - here is his early email to the production team.

Morning all,

Fidel Castro has finally stepped down as President of Cuba, 49 years after the Cuban Revolution. It's a great opportunity to discuss his legacy on Cuba, the Cold War, Latin America and revolutionaries (and would-be revolutionaries) across the world. Who should we have on to discuss this? Lots of suggestions please.

The Pakistan elections have delivered a significant blow to President Musharraf. The PPP of late PM Benazir Bhutto and the PML-N led by Nawaz Sharif, now share more than half the seats, though all the results are not yet in. So what happens next? Should Musharraf fear impeachment? Mark Urban is on the story, do you have any suggestions for guests?

Northern Rock. I've got a few thoughts on how we could push this on today, but what do you think, or should we even do it at all?

And, finally, we'll have Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero live in the studio. She's brilliant at improvisation and she'll play out on a piece based on a viewer's suggestion. We need to choreograph this very carefully.


Monday, 18 February, 2005

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Feb 08, 04:59 PM

Jeremy's presenting the programme tonight.
Northern Rock
Gordon Brown and Alistair DarlingWe'll have the latest on the fallout from the decision to nationalise Northern Rock. A few minutes ago David Cameron called for Alistair Darling to be removed from his post. Where does all this leave the government's reputation for economic competence? And would the Tories’ plan for the Rock be any sounder? We expect to hear from a Treasury minister and a senior Conservative.

"Draft" weapons dossier published
The government vigorously opposed its publication, but lost the battle. A first draft of the notorious dossier on Iraq's weapons capability has been released under Freedom of Information legislation. The draft was never released to the Hutton inquiry nor to Lord Butler's inquiry into the evidence that led to war. It sheds more light on the key role that political advisers had in the presentation of sensitive intelligence. More details on the programme...

Pakistan elections
The polls have already closed in Pakistan's parliamentary elections. The election is supposed to ease the transition to civilian democracy after eight years of military rule - but after weeks of bloody violence, and the assassination of key opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, it's likely that the outcome will lead to yet more instability and chaos. Mark Urban has spent the past week travelling across the country, speaking to top politicians and ordinary Pakistanis about the chance of peace.

Diana inquest
It was never likely to be a quiet day in court. But Mohammed Al Fayed's first day of evidence at the inquest into the death of Diana has proven more explosive than anyone could have imagined. He's referred to Prince Phillip as a "Nazi", and suggested that Prince Charles was part of the alleged murder plot, hoping to clear the decks so he could marry Camilla Parker Bowles. Has any of this led us any closer to the truth about her death? Possibly not. But we've sent our reporter Steve Smith along for the spectacle.

Prospects - Monday, 18 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Feb 08, 10:19 AM

Today's programme producer is Liz Gibbons - here is her early email to the production team.

Hello all

Masses around - what should we concentrate on?

Northern Rock bankNorthern Rock
How did we get here? Why did it take as long as it did to get here? And what might the political/economic consequences be? David Grossman is working on a piece. There's a Gordon Brown press conference at 11, a press conference with new Northern Rock boss Ron Sadler expected this afternoon and a Commons statement due. What are the key issues we want to address and who we want to hear from live?

Pakistan - Mark Urban is there for us working on a film assessing the impact of the elections. We should have a good sense of early results by the time we're on air.

Kosovo - officially recognised by EU and US today. Key interviews? (Watch Allan Little’s Kosovo essay from last week)

Al Fayed giving evidence at Diana inquest - Steve Smith is in court. Is there a discussion to be done?


Wish I'd taken a punt now, really - on the Rock!

  • Paul Mason
  • 18 Feb 08, 08:31 AM

Two weeks ago I appeared on Newsnight to talk about the bids in for Northern Rock. I went as near as I could to suggesting that the pullout of Olivant, leaving Branson plus the in-house "bid", left the Rock very close to Nationalisation. The reason? Both bids effectively only offered half a billion of new money in return for the government removing risk on 24bn worth of debt. Of course only Treasury people could be privy to the deep inner mathematics of the bids but even a jackass such as myself could work out that this possibly did not represent best value for taxpayers' money.

I had strong belief there and then that it would have to be temporarily nationalised. Why? For a reason you can't stake your reputation on: the tone of voice of everybody in government I spoke to betrayed their despair at the non-appearance of decent bids from the private sector. When I asked Downing Street that night: "are you planning to nationalise the Rock" the reply was "Treasury matter, Paul" - as in Father Jack Hackett's famous all-purpose brush off "That would be an ecumenical matter..."

Continue reading "Wish I'd taken a punt now, really - on the Rock!"

Friday, 15 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Feb 08, 05:33 PM

Tonight on Newsnight, yob culture and then on Newsnight Review, culture..

avery203x152.jpgThere have been a series of high profile stories this week involving inhuman behaviour by children. Gareth Avery was brutally attacked because he confronted a group of young drunks relieving themselves in his garden.

A 15-year-old girl admitted filming a fatal attack on Gavin Waterhouse in West Yorkshire by a 19 year old and a 17 year old. She then showed the footage to others even after it was known that Mr Waterhouse had died.

This was the response from a local criminal lawyer: “More than ever before young people are turning to extreme violence, in some cases for no reason other than entertainment. This case illustrates the gross callousness some teenagers are capable of."

Also this week Helen Newlove, the widow of Garry Newlove who was beaten to death by drunk youths has called for harsh measures for those selling alcohol to minors, and the ending of the glamorising of drinking on TV.

Tonight we devote the programme to trying to make some sense of what is going on. Why does no other country in Europe seem to have the same binge drinking nihilistic culture among it teenagers?

Why are some parents not able to exert any influence or control over anti-social behaviour? Are violent attacks by teenagers really up or is it that their ferocity distorts the true story? Is it adults who have let children down?

We hope to bring together in the studio tonight a teenager, a magistrate, a teacher, the police, a parent and the Children's Commissioner who said this week that the so-called "Mosquito" measure, a high-pitched sound used to disperse children from street corners, infringes their human rights.

Newsnight Review 15 February, 2008

  • Martha Kearney
  • 15 Feb 08, 04:22 PM

away203.jpgMark Kermode predicted on Review last week that Julie Christie wouldn't win an Oscar but she would get a Bafta for her performance in Away From Her.

In fact, the surprise Bafta winner was the French star of La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard. This is the fourth time that Julie Christie has been nominated for a leading actress Oscar - she won for Darling in 1966.

Now she is playing a woman who is struck down by Alzheimer’s and decides to move into a home. The first-time director Sarah Polley co-starred with Christie in The Secret Life of Words.

This week's panel - Bidisha, Rosie Boycott and Michael Gove - will be discussing Away From Her which has been re-released as a result of the Oscar nomination.

Art v commerce

By the way, one journalist blogged recently that they play Review roulette each week, predicting who will be on the panel. Guess they never read the email. Other people have told me they play Fantasy Guests. Do let me know who are yours.

Meanwhile, our real panel will also be discussing Speed-the-Plow, a Mamet revival on at The Old Vic in London. It stars the theatre's artistic director Kevin Spacey and Jeff Goldblum as two Hollywood producers confronting the age old clash of art versus commerce.

Our third item is a work which was voted best novel of 2007 by Time magazine in the States. It took Junot Díaz 11 years to write The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao after his highly acclaimed short story collection Drown.
The language of the book is bizarrely imaginative, switching between the Spanish of Oscar’s native Dominican Republic, the fantasy speak of Tolkien, sci-fi and street slang.

duffymarling203.jpgAmy Winehouse did brilliantly at the Grammys this week even though her visa came in too late for her to travel to the States. Whether down to her success or not, there is now a real vogue for young British women singer-songwriters.

We'll be looking at that new generation - Laura Marling who at 18 is picking up comparisons with Joni Mitchell; Adele whose album 19 is named for her age; and Duffy, the Welsh singer whom experts have picked as one of the key sounds of 2008.

Do join us at 11pm.

Martha Kearney

Sharia Law debate - Newswatch

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Feb 08, 04:06 PM


A number of viewers were unhappy with the Sharia law discussion we held last week (watch it here) with Douglas Murray from the Centre for Social Cohesion, Professor Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University, and the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme.

Editor Peter Barron went on the BBC's Newswatch to discuss the debate and coverage. Watch the programme here.

Belgian astronauts - an apology

  • Newsnight
  • 15 Feb 08, 02:35 PM

Last night during Steve Smith's piece on proposals to send more Britons into space - watch it here - it was suggested that there hadn't been any Belgian astronauts.

Dirk FrimoutHowever, as viewer Danny noted, Belgium has had not one, but two men in space. The first was Dirk Frimout way back in 1992, who flew as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

An unsourced note on his wikipaedia entry claims he sparked "Frimout-mania" on his return to Belgium and spoke with Prince Philippe whilst aboard Atlantis. We can't confirm the extent of Frimout-mania but we'd love to hear of any examples. We did find this apparent homage on YouTube - La danse du Dirk Frimout.

The second Belgian in space was Frank De Winne, who flew as a member of a Russian Soyuz programme in 2002, and is due to fly again on another Soyuz mission to the International Space Station in 2009.

So apologies to Belgium and its astronauts and all its space enthusiasts.

Thursday, 14 February, 2008

  • Kirsty Wark
  • 14 Feb 08, 04:48 PM

Dear viewers,

George W Bush
We kick off tonight with the first interview for the BBC with George W Bush in many a long year. He heads to Africa tomorrow and has given BBC America's Matt Frei an eve-of-visit interview. Sudan - and Steven Spielberg's resignation from the Beijing Olympic ceremony - will be at the top the agenda, but he was also asked about Iraq and his legacy at home and abroad. Watch the interview here.

French KFOR forces in MitrovicaFrom Kosovo we'll have a film from the BBC’s Allan Little, who was there during the conflict and in Bosnia before that. It is now almost certain that the Kosovan Albanian leadership will declare independence this weekend - a position supported by the US. After that Northern Kosovo, almost entirely populated by Serbs, may declare independence, followed by the Serbs in Bosnia - it is believed land swaps are already being arranged. Will this be tantamount to permanent partition and what are the implications for the region?

Lotfi Raissi, wrongly accused of training pilots involved in 9/11, should be allowed to claim compensation the court of appeal ruled this morning. The judgement was very critical of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office for granting an extradition request from the Americans. He will be live on Newsnight tonight.

Brits in Space?
...and what has Space exploration done for us? A revolution in communications for one thing, but today as the Government launches its new Space Strategy is there a danger we are going to hitch our wagon to Nasa and manned flights, rather than take a more imaginative route to new frontiers?

I hope you'll be on board tonight Kirsty

Gabriela Montero - improvising your suggestions live

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Feb 08, 03:48 PM

Gabriela MonteroClassical improvisation was a serious art for masters such as Beethoven and Liszt, and Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero is fast proving it is not a lost art.

Montero can take whatever suggestions she is given and turn them into fully formed compositions, drawing on jazz, tango and even blues.

For Newsnight, she has set herself a challenge: on Tuesday's programme Gabriela will perform an improvised live piece based on your suggestions.

In the past she has improvised around classical works from Vivaldi, crossed Bizet with Scott Joplin and played Bach in the style of Italian pianist Busoni. Her repertoire also includes more eclectic inspirations - the Archers theme tune, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, Christmas carols and even football chants have been woven into pieces. She is also happy to use abstract themes - weather, moods, seasons - as leitmotifs. Listen to Gabriela’s take on Vivaldi’s Summer and Winter (courtesy of EMI Classics)

Below are the suggestions you sent for Gabriela to improvise around - but which one will we choose? Watch Newsnight on Tuesday to find out...

Prospects 14 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 14 Feb 08, 10:25 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the production team. But what do you want to see covered?

Good morning. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Matt Frei has an interview with George W Bush - the first BBC interview for many years. The pitch for the interview was to speak about Africa on the eve of Bush's trip there - fortunately for us Darfur, and the role of China in Sudan has become a very big issue this week. We could do a discussion off the back - who would you like on?

Lotfi Raissi, wrongly accused of training pilots involved in 9/11, should be allowed to claim compensation the Court of Appeal ruled this morning. The judgement was very critical of the CPS and the Home Office for granting an extradition request from the Americans.

A review into Britain's space programme is launched today - and the prospect of a British manned mission is now very real. Is this the right direction, or a huge waste of money? Which guests could we get on?

We have a film from Kosovo by Allan Little, ahead of the expected declaration of independence this weekend.

We should keep an eye on Beirut. What else have you seen? What guests would you like to see on?


Wednesday, 13 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Feb 08, 05:05 PM

Mysterious death of Georgian billionaire

georgian203x100.jpgA billionaire and opposition leader from the former Soviet state of Georgia was found dead in his home in Surrey last night. He'd been accused of trying to foment a coup in his native country, and just weeks ago, he claimed that the authorities in Georgia wanted him dead. Surrey police are treating his death as suspicious. It’s possible they will conclude that Badri Patarkatsishvili died of a simple heart attack. But why did he believe his life was in danger? We're investigating.

Is China fit to host the Olympics?

Steven Spielberg has decided to quit as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics because of China's relationship with Sudan. Human rights groups have wasted no time in reminding the world of a host of other reasons why China's fitness to hold the Olympics is questionable. Should multi-million dollar sponsors of the games follow Spielberg's lead? Or is engagement with China the right way forward?


A judicial review of the Serious Fraud Office's decision to halt the inquiry in to BAe's relationship with Saudi Arabia is due to start tomorrow. Newsnight will be analysing some of the documents that are likely to form a key part of the court case. They suggest that there was considerable political pressure for the inquiry to be halted a long time before it was.

Culture in schools

School children in England will be offered five hours of cultural activities a week, we learnt today. Is the government right to set store by such forms of learning? And why has it not been a priority until now? A top scientist and the musician Nitin Sawnhey will join Jeremy.

Newsnight gold

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Feb 08, 03:38 PM

Newsnight goldAt the beginning of this week we launched a new feature on the website - Newsnight gold.

From down in the depths of the Newsnight archive (actually it's upstairs), librarian Adam will unearth the best of Newsnights gone by. We have mined the archive before for our 25th anniversary back in 2005 - but now Adam will bring us highlights from corresponding weeks from past years (you'll have to wait until October for his favourite piece - voodoo in Haiti from 1981).

His first find is from 12 February, 1980 - the programme's first year on-air. Charles Wheeler reports from Maine on a fractious Democratic presidential nomination campaign (sound familiar?). Watch it here.

We've included the titles and an "And finally..." story so you can see the set and graphics in their full glory. As you can see, much has changed in television news... Do let us know your thoughts.

Prospects for Wednesday, 13 February

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Feb 08, 10:18 AM

Liz Gibbons is today's programme producer - here is her early email to the team.

Hi - what do you want to cover tonight?

I'm interested in the IPPR commission on national security - is the terror threat in danger of concealing more fundamental and pressing issues? We could have a grand discussion.

China and Spielberg is good too - how could we move it on and who could we hear from?

Culture in schools - clearly a good talking point. Who with?

We should keep an eye on the death of the Georgian dissident in Surrey. And there are a couple of terror trials that might end today -more details at the meeting…

And we have a film from Peter Marshall in advance of the BAE court case tomorrow - he's got hold of some interesting documents.


Tuesday, 12 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Feb 08, 06:06 PM


shoppers203x100.jpgInflation is up - should we be worried and is there anything we can do? The Office of National Statistics say rising fuel and food costs are to blame. Do we in Britain have the answers to rising inflation or is it an international problem which we can't solve alone?


About 80 miles south-west of Washington DC, where the Shenandoah mountains crawl along the horizon and where the rich soil of Virginia is soaked with the blood and tears of America's turbulent history, is a town called Culpeper. Matt Frei returns to the town as the residents decide how to cast their votes in today's primary.


Edward Lucas' new book The New Cold War says that the West must wake up to the threat posed by President Putin and the Kremlin. He will debate with a Putin supporter live.


As he performs the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in London, musical maestro Daniel Barenboim talks to Jeremy about his passion for music, life and politics.

The New Cold War by Edward Lucas

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Feb 08, 01:34 PM

new_cold_war203x152.jpgJournalist Edward Lucas claims that Russia has started a new Cold War - and the West is losing it because it is unwilling to confront the new threat.

Edward Lucas speaks to Jeremy Paxman on 12 February.

Extract from:

The New Cold War
How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West
by Edward Lucas
Published by Bloomsbury at £18.99

Vladimir Putin wants to build up the Kremlin’s influence not only on the West, but also in the West. The growing business lobby tied to Russia represents a powerful fifth column of a kind unseen during the last Cold War. Once it was communist trade unions that undermined the West at the Kremlin’s behest. Now it is pro-Kremlin bankers and politicians who betray their countries for thirty silver roubles.

Continue reading "The New Cold War by Edward Lucas"

Prospects for Tuesday, 12 February

  • Newsnight
  • 12 Feb 08, 10:28 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the production team. But what do you want to see covered?

Good morning everyone,

A few decent stories around today including inflation, David Miliband's democracy speech, and internet file sharing. Do come to the meeting with ideas on how to do these stories or any others.

On the day of the Virginia primary we have the latest instalment from Culpeper by Matt Frei. It will be done on the day.

Jeremy is doing an interview this afternoon with Daniel Barenboim.

I've sorted out a Newsnight Bookclub option. It's Edward Lucas' new book The New Cold War. He says that the West must wake up to the threat posed by Putin and the Kremlin. Bids in for the Russian government. Could make a good disco.


Monday, 11 February, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Feb 08, 06:00 PM

Khalid Sheikh MohammedIs the decision of the Pentagon to charge six Guantanamo Bay prisoners over their alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks a seminal moment in the so called "War against Terror"? The US authorities promise a fair and open trial, but will evidence gained through "waterboarding" be acceptable to the military court, what rights will the defendants have and can justice be done and be seen to be done?

There has been an extraordinary lobbying campaign in the City over the issue of non-domicile residents - foreign nationals living in the UK who don't pay income tax on their earnings abroad. They are trying to persuade the Treasury to drop its proposals to charge so called "non-doms" a flat rate of £30,000 a year and to disclose details of their tax arrangements. There have been claims that City high fliers will leave the country and we could all suffer - so what’s the truth?

Kenya - John Githongo speaks out
On the eve of a possible peace deal in Nairobi, we have a rare interview with a former insider of President Kibaki's government who was forced out of the country for revealing evidence of widespread corruption. He has some frightening predictions for the future of Kenya.

Art Bluffing
How to bluff your way through the world of art - an idiot's guide by Steve Smith.

Prospects - Monday, 11 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 11 Feb 08, 10:19 AM

Dan Kelly is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the production team. But what do you want to see covered?

The extraordinary allegations over the weekend of widespread bugging at Woodhill prison between lawyers and their clients has potentially huge consequences - if proved it could even lead to a number of high profile cases being overturned. Richard Watson - who revealed allegations of the bugging of one "legally privileged" meeting at Woodhill last week - is on the case.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is due to refer to the row over his comments on Sharia law at the General Synod today. The story has been extensively covered but let's see what Dr Williams says and how we could cover.

On the eve of a possible deal in Kenya, we have a rare live broadcast interview with John Githongo, former anti-corruption officer for Kibaki's Government.

Steve Smith also has an amusing film about bluffing in the art world.

Other stories...

We should keep an eye on East Timor and look at Chris Grayling's "Jeremy Kyle" generation speech. What else could we cover?

Three key tests for David Cameron

  • Michael Crick
  • 8 Feb 08, 06:08 PM

cameron20330.jpgQuietly, and barely noticed, people in the political community are starting to contemplate a change of government, and to prepare for it. Government political advisers are putting out feelers for jobs in the private sector. Left-leaning think tanks, lobbyists and PR firms who’ve all thrived in the years of New Labour, are starting to re-orientate themselves, trying to recruit more staff with Conservative backgrounds, all in readiness for the day they will have to prove their worth under a Cameron regime, and show strong personal links with his likely team of ministers.

But personally I am far from convinced that David Cameron will emerge from the next election as Prime Minister – if you put a gun to my head I’d say it’s still only 50-50. Despite Gordon Brown’s troubles (and continuing gloom in the Labour ranks), I know that many leading Conservatives privately share my doubts about their prospects.

It’s that 2008 doesn’t yet have the feel of the years 1994 to 1997, when the newly elected Tony Blair inspired a genuine popular enthusiasm for New Labour, which by 1996 became a widespread assumption that Labour would return to power. Whilst many of the public have severe doubts about Gordon Brown and the Labour government, they aren’t yet convinced that David Cameron is the answer, or has the answers.

And whilst the Tories are ahead in the polls, they aren’t yet matching Tony Blair’s huge double-digit (often more than 20 per cent) leads of the mid-1990s. And remember the huge bias in the electoral system which means (depending on which analysis you trust) the Conservatives have to get between six and ten per cent head of Labour simply to win an equal number of seats.

To persuade me that David Cameron is on his way to Downing Street let me pose three tests.

Continue reading "Three key tests for David Cameron"

Friday, 8 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Feb 08, 04:43 PM

williams203x100.jpgThe Archbishop of Canterbury has attracted widespread criticism after appearing to back the adoption of some aspects of Sharia law in the UK. Dr Rowan Williams said the UK had to "face up to the fact" some citizens did not relate to the UK legal system.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said such moves would create "social chaos”. But Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, criticised the "disgraceful" way in which the archbishop had been "ridiculed" and "lampooned" by some.

We'll be devoting the whole of the programme tonight to the main issues surrounding this story. Both traditionalists and liberals in the Church of England have criticised Dr Williams' comments. With just days to go to the meeting of the General Synod is his leadership now an issue?

We'll also be examining the reaction to this story. Is it Islamophobia or is there a genuine threat to British culture? Join the debate

The Bishop of Hulme will be debating these subjects with a critic of Dr Williams, a leading Muslim academic and a writer on social cohesion in Britain.

Newsnight Review
Joining Martha on Review are Sarah Churchwell, Mark Kermode and Ekow Eshun.

Detail from Reflection by Peter DoigThey'll be discussing British artist Peter Doig's retrospective at Tate Britain (Watch an extended version of Martha's interview here and read her thoughts on the show here); the film Juno with rising star Ellen Page; BBC One's new near-future surveillance drama The Last Enemy; and a new production of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming at the Almeida Theatre, London. Read more on the Review website and leave your reviews below.

Has reaction to the Archbishop's Sharia law comments been Islamophobic?

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Feb 08, 10:32 AM

Dr Rowan WilliamsPoliticians from all the main parties have criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for suggesting that elements of Islamic law might be recognised in Britain. Some senior Anglican priests have defended his remarks - saying Dr Rowan Williams was talking about decisions relating to marriage and property, not crimes or questions of belief.

Has the response to the Archbishop's comments been Islamophobic or does this pose a genuine threat to British culture?

We'll discuss the issues on the programme tonight - leave your thoughts below.

Thursday, 7 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Feb 08, 05:17 PM

Sharia law in the UK?
williams203.jpgIs this what we really want? The Archbishop of Canterbury - leader of the Church of England - thinks it is unavoidable, and desirable. He told the The World at One on Radio 4, "There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law." He specified marital disputes and financial disputes and not the "inhumanity" that has sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states.

But is this really the way to achieve "social cohesion" and has he consulted, in particular, British Muslim women for their views on this? Tonight Newsnight discusses how Sharia would work given equal status to English and Scottish Law, and if Sharia is a legal system you can "pick and choose".

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone appeared before the London Assembly today and Michael Crick was watching. The mayor’s stewardship of London is under question tonight. There have been calls for the resignation of his close friend and race advisor Lee Jasper.

Emails released by the London Development Agency allegedly show that 13 projects in the city run by Mr Jasper or his friends received as much as £3.3m without proper process. Ken Livingstone told the BBC and others that all the paperwork was in place. We've asked Michael to find out the truth.

Ethical fashion
And for all you dedicated followers of fashion - and clothes junkies - is your compulsive purchasing of ever cheaper clothes destroying the planet? Is ethical fashion a contradiction in terms? Ahead of London Fashion Week Madeleine Holt has been deep inside the fashion industry in the company of woman who put Top Shop on the map - and then left. This is the first time Jane Shepherdson has spoken since she waved Sir Philip Greeen goodbye. Read about Madeleine's adventures in the world of ethical fashion here.

UPDATE: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has withdrawn from the race for the Republican party nomination for the US presidency, leaving the way clear for John McCain. We'll examine the impact of Romney's withdrawal tonight.

Kite non-runner

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Feb 08, 04:51 PM

Caroline FlintIf ministerial careers depended on their popularity amongst Labour backbenchers, then Gordon Brown’s new housing minister Caroline Flint would be in deep, deep trouble.

There has been an outcry amongst Labour MPs in the last 48 hours about Ms Flint’s speech suggesting that people who live in council houses could be evicted if they don’t actively look for jobs.

This idea went down extremely badly with Ms Flint's colleagues, even though many of them accept – as Jackie Long reported on Newsnight – that this was merely a kite flying exercise.

“There are four kinds of policies in politics,” a former Labour cabinet minister told me (barely able to hide his disbelief at what Ms Flint had said), “the best policies are those which both make sense and are popular. Then you’ve got policies that don’t make sense but which are popular, and then there are policies which make sense but are unpopular. The worst of all are policies like this - which are neither sensible nor popular.”

Nothing fishy here

  • Michael Crick
  • 7 Feb 08, 12:48 PM

Plasma screen tvI went to a hearing of the Information Tribunal this morning where the Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke and a couple of Sunday newspaper journalists were trying to get the House of Commons authorities to release more details about what MPs can claim on their additional costs allowance.

This is the money they get for having to occupy a second home, either in London or in their constituencies. They are reimbursed not just for rental or mortgage interest costs on their second home but also a general household expenditure, including items of furniture.

We heard from Andrew Walker, Director General of Finance and Administration, who argued that providing more detail would be an invasion of MPs personal privacy.

A well known Oxford Street store will no doubt be delighted to learn that that the Commons finance department keeps what Mr Walker calls a “John Lewis list” of reasonably priced items. TV sets for instance, which are neither luxury/top of the range nor “the bottom end of the market”.

So Mr Walker’s department would be unlikely to accept a claim for a plasma TV, he told the tribunal, and claims for iPods are rejected on the grounds that iPods are regarded as a personal items, but he said fish tanks “may be claimable”. Although he did know of one case where a claim for a fish tank had been rejected.

If only the BBC accounts were as understanding as this.

Prospects - Thursday, 7 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 7 Feb 08, 10:28 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer - here is his early email to the team. What do you want us to cover?

Hello People,

Met police officersLots going on - how best do we deploy our resources to tell the most important and distinctive stories?

Sir Ronnie Flanagan on how policing must change. How shall we do that?

The NATO/Afghanistan row - is there a way we can take this on from our excellent coverage last night.

Ken Livingstone appears before London Assembly. Is it time for Michael Crick's profile of the mayor?

Stuart Bower tries to take Gordon Brown to court today. He's accusing the PM of a breach of trust with the Labour voter - for not holding a referendum. Liz Mackean is in court.

Oh and an amazing access film from Madeleine Holt on ethical fashion. We have debate setup off the back.

Other stories? Playout ideas.

Wednesday, 6 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Feb 08, 07:03 PM

British soldier in Musa QalaIs Afghanistan going to be the remaking or breaking of NATO? The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met the prime minister in London today to discuss strategy in Afghanistan. British Generals are calling for troop reinforcements, meanwhile the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was scathing about the ability and willingness of NATO members, other than the US and Britain, to put up forces for Afghanistan. So who is prepared to send more troops to Afghanistan? Mark Urban has been investigating.

US elections
Gavin has moved from New York to Washington, and will be picking over the results of yesterday's "Super Tuesday" primaries. Results are still coming in, but it looks as if John McCain now has an unassailable lead in the Republican race. Gavin has been looking at Senator McCain's Presidential credentials - what is it about the 71 year old who is at odds with his party on many of the key issues that has allowed him to do so well? And what of this talk of a deal with his rival for the nomination - Mike Huckabee?

On the Democrat side - it's looking much tighter. Barack Obama won more states than Hillary Clinton in last night's contest, but they are almost neck-and-neck in the race for delegates. It's possible that no clear winner will emerge until the party convention in August. David Grossman is in California and will be asking when the race for the White House will become clear cut.

Intercept evidence
Meanwhile there seems to be political consensus that the law should be changed so that intercept evidence can be used, in certain circumstances, in courts. But what do the security services make of the government's announcement today? Richard Watson has been investigating.

Shy Keenan
And the story of Shy Keenan's campaign for justice. She was raped and sexually abused by a series of men led by her stepfather from the age of three until she was 14. As a young woman she repeatedly tried to get the authorities to listen to her horrific story, but it was not until she worked with Newsnight on a special investigation into her abuse that she was able to confront her stepfather and secretly film him admitting it. He and two other men were then jailed for a total of 32 years. Since the conviction she has campaigned for the child victims of sexual abuse, and tomorrow her account of her destroyed childhood and the long road to a recovered life will be published - read an extract. She will be live tonight on the programme.

Newsnight book club: Broken by Shy Keenan

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Feb 08, 05:18 PM

Broken by Shy KeenanShy Keenan was systematically raped by her stepfather Stanley Claridge throughout her childhood. When she was just ten she was almost killed by a group of abusers he had sold her to. In a Newsnight special investigation in 2000, she secretly recorded Stanley Claridge admitting the abuse – an admission that led to him and his accomplices being arrested and brought to trial. Shy Keenan’s testimony ensured he and two other men were imprisoned.

Founder - with Sara Payne – of Phoenix Survivors, Shy Keenan now campaigns for justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse. Her book Broken is her story - of how she survived being abused and fought to bring those responsible to justice. The following extract is from chapter 30, Why Me?, which details the trial.

BROKEN by Shy Keenan is published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardcover (£12.99) on 7 February

Continue reading "Newsnight book club: Broken by Shy Keenan"

Two things I hate about British media coverage of the US elections

  • Michael Crick
  • 6 Feb 08, 03:12 PM

Hillary woos the middle classesFirst, the use of the term “middle class voters”. The trouble is that “middle class” in America means a very different group of people to the British “middle class”. In the USA “middle class” essentially means “middle income” – the average Joe – people we in Britain might term “lower middle class” or “upper working class”. But the “middle class” in Britain are essentially the top half of the population - the better off, people in professional jobs, who own their own homes and so on. This difference explains why American politicians, Democrat and Republican, frequently win cheers for saying “we’ve got to do more for middle class voters”, whereas any politician who said that in Britain would be taking a huge risk. They would be condemned as elitist, and accused of neglecting the less well-off. So talking of "middle class" people in the the American context becomes confusing and meaningless for a British audience. It's better, if talking of the American "middle class", to use the term "middle income".

Second, can we please stop referring to Hillary Clinton merely as “Hillary”? Calling politicians by their Christian names implies an element of favour or intimacy. It’s dangerous and should always be avoided by independent journalists and especially broadcasters. Would we have called the 1980 presidential race a contest between Jimmy Carter and Ronnie? Of course not. OK, one needs to distinguish Hillary Clinton from her husband, so she should be called “Hillary Clinton” or “Mrs Clinton”. And the same argument applies to the Labour and Conservative contenders in the current London mayoral election, who are often referred to in the media as “Ken” (Livingstone) and “Boris” (Johnson). It’s terribly unfair on the Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick and all the other candidates.

Prospects: Wednesday, 6 Februrary, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Feb 08, 10:34 AM

Today's programme producer is Carol Rubra - here is her early email to the production team.

Super Tuesday
We'll spend a chunk of the programme looking at what happened on Super Tuesday. Gavin will co-present from Washington, Kirsty is here, while David and Ben are in LA (watch David's latest videoblog on the Newsnight US election website).
We have a pre-recorded interview with Stan Greenberg and a live discussion.

But there are other stories around too. Let's talk in the meeting about which we should do and how:
Afghanistan - a "critical week" with more troops being announced today and new figures on the opium trade;
Intercept evidence to be used in trials;
Proposals to change law on under-age drinking in public places;
and we have an interview with Shy Keenan.

What would you like to see on the programme?

Tuesday, 5 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Feb 08, 05:38 PM

gavin203x100.jpgHello to viewers. We open tonight with Gavin in New York and David Grossman watching the political drama unfold - in what one US journalist called Super complicated Tuesday. It's a key date in the American Presidential contest. Republicans and Democrats in 24 states - almost half the country, are choosing their candidates in the race for the White House. Eventually, it could mean the United States getting either its first woman President, its first black President, or its oldest incoming President. The story will be unfolding while we're on air and we will be there live.

Then on this side of the Atlantic, is surveillance growing unchecked, and without us really having any idea who is authorising bugging and intercepts, and therefore operating with little or no accountability? Is it a frightening or reassuring prospect that someone may be watching us, and is the threat of terror a legitimate reason for surveillance or an excuse for breaching our human rights? The bugging of the civil rights lawyer, MP and now government minister Sadiq Khan on visits to his constituent and client Babar Ahmad in Woodhill Prison has become a major political and security row. Tonight we'll be exploring the limits of freedom, and the role of the State.

Also tonight, is kite flying a sound political tool, a legitimate vehicle of gauging public opinion or a cheap way of scoring political points? Today in her first speech as Housing Minister Caroline Flint suggested that in order to qualify for council housing people would have to show a willingness to work. She was immediately condemned by some charities for suggesting “a return to the workhouse". This follows David Cameron's uncosted idea that all new mothers should have a home nurse for a baby’s first week. We explore the modern history of political kite flying - some of the soaring successes and plummeting failures.

Prospects for Tuesday, 5 February

  • Newsnight
  • 5 Feb 08, 10:29 AM

Robert Morgan is today's programme producer. Here's his early email to the production team.
Good morning everyone,

It's Super Duper Tuesday. Gavin, Liz and Lucy are in New York. David and Ben are in LA. We'll be doing a co-pres with Kirsty here. A lot of the production work will need to be done here. I'll explain more in the meeting. Other stories include new lines in the extraordinary bugging story, Northern Rock, housing, and Prince Andrew. Do come to the meeting with ideas on how to do these stories and any others you like.


The latest score...

  • Michael Crick
  • 4 Feb 08, 10:09 PM

Here's Newsnight's latest list of MPs who employ members of their families, or have done so recently. Our named total is now 96, though we know the overall figure is probably around 200, maybe more.

David Cameron said on Friday that more than 70 Conservative MPs employ relatives. Nick Clegg has said there are around 12 Lib Dems. Labour has yet to give us an official number but "sources" say today their "best guess is between 90 and 100".

So to add to our initial list of 79 - already supplemented by Martin Caton and the Speaker Michael Martin - we can now add the following 15:

Peter Atkinson
Julian Brazier
Janet Dean
Nadine Dorries
Sharon Hodgson
Phil Hope
Lindsay Hoyle
Chris McCafferty
Denis Murphy
Bill Olner
John Pugh
Laurence Robertson
Geraldine Smith
Bob Spink
Hugo Swire

Are the two remaining Northern Rock bids enough to stave off nationalisation?

  • Paul Mason
  • 4 Feb 08, 06:41 PM

I don't think so. The Treasury said today that any private sector solution to Northern Rock has to offer the taxpayer a "demonstrably better" outcome than any nationalisation. Let's be clear, (as I always say to finance geeks "as if for an idot") what the economic stakes are:
- Northern Rock owes the government 24bn pounds it can't pay back...

Continue reading "Are the two remaining Northern Rock bids enough to stave off nationalisation?"

Monday, 4 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Feb 08, 05:30 PM

Dear reader and viewer,

CommonsTonight Jeremy Paxman is down at the House of Commons asking honourable members whether they still deserve the privileges that being an MP brings. We'll have his report and debate the issue.

That on the day the Commons Speaker Michael Martin admits there is deep concern about MPs’ expenses and convenes his committee to draw up new rules. Michael Crick is asking the questions about MPs and their financial rewards.

We'll also be asking just how widespread bugging of Parliamentarians is these days - this weekend we heard from Sadiq Khan MP who was bugged while visiting a constituent in prison. Another politician who claims he's been bugged speaks to us.

Just south of Baghdad today the Americans have killed up to 20 civilians - including children. A dreadful mistake at a time when, mostly, events on the ground were improving. Our correspondent Jonny Dymond reports on how despite awful mistakes like today's, the troops are changing hearts and minds. But will it be a permanent shift? More from Jonny on his time with US troops here.

And Gavin Esler is in the States ahead of tomorrow's crucial vote dubbed Super Tuesday. Obama, Hillary, McCain, Romney or even Huckabee? Who will emerge as victors and will it finally mean we know who will be running for President for the Republicans and the Democrats? Watch David Grossman's videoblog and lots more Newsnight US election coverage here.

Simon Enright, programme producer

Prospects: Monday, 4 February, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Feb 08, 10:20 AM

Simon Enright is today's programme producer. Here's his early email to the production team.

Lots we could do today. If we are going to do it properly what should we choose?

barack203flag.jpgOf course we'll preview Super Tuesday - or Super Dooper Tuesday as they keep calling it. Gavin is in Washington and David Grossman is in Arizona. David's latest video blog will appear on the US elections page very shortly.

But that is not our lead story. Should that be:

Bugging - It appears that the so-called "Wilson Doctrine" has been broken. An MP bugged whilst visiting a constituent - admittedly a constituent being held in prison as he awaits extradition ruling on terrorist charges in the States. Is the Wilson Doctrine out of date or should we be outraged by this casual bugging of our MPs?

Northern Rock - We get final confirmation of bidders today. But is there something deeply unfair to the rest of the banking industry in all this?

GPs - What is the battle between the BMA and government all about and what do GPs and patients really want?

MPs Expenses - Now the Inland Revenue is going to get involved. Is there more that we should be doing?

There are other news stories around. Do let me know which ones you think could work as well.

Relative satisfaction

  • Michael Crick
  • 1 Feb 08, 06:39 PM

It’s nice to see that all three of the major party leaders now seem to be adopting a proposal I made more than four years ago to the then Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer – that MPs should have to state of the Register of MPs Interests if they employ any members of their families.

Michael CrickI made the proposal in the autumn of 2003, during the so-called Betsygate episode, when I passed on to Sir Philip serious allegations I had received form senior Tories to the effect that the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith was employing his wife Betsy as his secretary, and paying her from his Parliamentary allowances, but, it was alleged to me, she was doing little or no work. After a long and extensive enquiry the allegations were dismissed, and Sir Philip concluded that Mrs Duncan Smith had in fact been working for her husband on parliamentary business.

I made my proposal for greater disclosure because I suspected – despite the judgement on IDS – that there was a significant amount of abuse by MPs in this area. If MPs had to say publicly if they were employing their spouses, children and so on, then, I reckoned, they might think twice about allowing them to do little or no work. Other people have gone further than me, arguing that MPs ought to declare the names of all staff employed from public funds.

My suggestion was roundly ignored – by Sir Philip, by the Standards and Privileges Committee, by the Speaker and the Parliamentary authorities, by the media, and by MPs and the political parties.

Now, with today’s scramble by the party leaders to outdo each other in transparency on all this, I am having to revise again the number of MPs who were employing family members. On Wednesday night I said it could be up to a hundred. Last night, when Newsnight published its list of 79 names, I said it was probably well over a hundred. But on today’s evidence it looks like it could easily be as many as 250. David Cameron has said the Conservatives now reckon more than 70 of their 193 MPs employ family members – almost 40 per cent - while Nick Clegg says there are at least twelve Lib Dems.

parlynight203.jpgNewsnight’s list of 79 names has now crept up to 81, with the addition of Martin Caton, and the Speaker Michael Martin, who employs his daughter Mary on a part-time basis. Of our 81 names, 47 are Labour, 25 Conservative, 8 Lib Dems, plus the Speaker. And given the figures David Cameron and Nick Clegg have produced today, we can calculate that the very minimum number of MPs who employ family members is now 140. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think the Labour total could eventually climb from 47 to 150, hence my new estimate of around 250.

David Cameron says the Conservative front bench will all have to declare the own circumstances on this by 1 April. Fine – but why wait two months? Why not tell by 12 noon on Monday?

Friday, 1 February, 2008

  • Gavin Esler
  • 1 Feb 08, 06:17 PM

Today's Quote for the Day
"That image of myself soused in champagne being devoured by lusting women in a luxury hotel suite was the pinnacle of my rock and roll excesses. I thought as a rock star, I owed it to people to enjoy myself to the absolute limit" – Blur bassist turned farmer Alex James writing in his book A Bit Of A Blur.

In tonight's programme:

Parkinson's Disease
We've an exclusive report on the drugs used to help control Parkinson's disease which, sufferers say, can lead to aberrant behaviour including problem gambling. Read more about our exclusive story here.

yahoo203100.jpgMicrosoft's takeover bid for Yahoo! affects all of us. We'll be asking who controls cyberspace - and who is likely to control it in the future?

And at the end of another week when political sleaze of one sort or another constantly made headlines, it looks as though all the main parties are desperate to show that political cleanliness is next to Godliness. What does this rush to transparency tell us? Michael Crick is on the case.

Newsnight Review
Daniel Day LewisJoining Kirsty on the Review couch are John Harris, Tony Parsons and Julie Myerson. They'll be discussing: Oscar nomination-covered There Will Be Blood, with Daniel Day Lewis; DCI Gene Hunt's return in Ashes to Ashes - the follow up to much-lauded BBC One time-slip drama Life on Mars; the new novel by dystopian master JG Ballard - Miracles of Life; and the film which pushed viral marketing to new heights, NY disaster flick Cloverfield. More details of all those on the Review website.

Prospects for Friday, 1 February

  • Newsnight
  • 1 Feb 08, 10:19 AM

Today's programme producer is Robert Morgan - here is his early email to the production team. What would you like to see on the programme?

Good morning,

We have what promises to be a really strong lead story once it's been finally signed off legally. I'll tell you more in the morning meeting.

There are a number of strong stories we could do today including the NATO row over troops in Afghanistan. Is its mission in jeopardy? There's Kenya, Northern Rock and Scottish care for the elderly too. Any ideas are more than welcome on how to do these stories and any others.

A big discussion on a major story would be good.


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